Thursday, Jun 30, 2022

A Million Year Old Cloud Forest in Malaysia

The Mossy Forest is like an enchanted setting for a fairy tale

The forest walkway in the Mossy Forest in the Cameron Highlands
The forest walkway in the Mossy Forest in the Cameron Highlands Shutterstock

The Mossy Forest in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia is one of the oldest forests in the country (locals believe it existed in the time of dinosaurs). The ancient trees covered in moss from top to bottom, the labyrinth of branches, and a spongy floor with gnarly roots make it look magical—like a setting for a fairy tale (think Maleficent). It conjures up visions of the Fanghorn forest from Lord of the Rings. The canopy is so thick that sunshine filters through in rare bursts, and a mist hangs in the air. The forest is so quiet that when the wind blows through the trees, it feels like someone is whispering in your ear. 

The moist atmosphere is perfect for the growth of moss, ferns, lichens, and orchids, and it is home to a variety of montane creatures like snakes, frogs, birds and mammals. Take an interpretive walk with a nature guide and get to know about exotic flora like the pitcher plant, orchids, ferns, and medicinal plants. Make sure you enlist the help of an experienced local guide as the forest is enormous and people have got lost in the trails. Because the forest is a protected area, you will require a permit from the Pahang State Forest Department. 

A red fox inside the forest
A red fox inside the forest Shutterstock

The area has several mountain peaks. If the day is clear, drive up to the Gunung Brinchang mountain, the highest point in Malaysia. It has an observation tower at the summit with gorgeous views of the surrounding Titiwangsa Mountains. Instead of driving, you can also take the three-hour hike up. An elevated 200-metre boardwalk before the peak of Mount Brinchang provides a series of wooden platforms through the forest. The boardwalk can get quite 'touristy' though during peak season. Another great trek is to the Gunung Irau, walking among intertwined tree roots (be warned, it's slippery).

If you want a break from the forest, drive down to one of the many tea estates here. Most have an attached café where you can have a refreshing cup of tea, and a strawberry pastry (the area has several strawberry farms where you can pick up fresh fruits, or snacks and condiments derived from the fruit). You can also stop over for a meal at The Smokehouse Hotel, a mock Tudor mansion which makes you feel like you are in England. Located halfway along the road from Tanah Rata to Brinchang, you get some excellent afternoon tea in the conservatory (complete with scones).